Magazine article Marketing to Women: Addressing Women and Women's Sensibilities

Women Are the Growth Factor as Videogaming Becomes a Mass Medium

Magazine article Marketing to Women: Addressing Women and Women's Sensibilities

Women Are the Growth Factor as Videogaming Becomes a Mass Medium

Article excerpt

Last year's inaugural Women's Game Conference focused media and industry attention on women as consumers of and developers for videogames. The common perception is that the industry has long ignored the women's market, and that female consumers are to videogaming what they were a few years ago to home improvement--the chief growth market, but one that needs to be courted from scratch.

What's certain is that videogaming is now an industry with a serious interest in women--as both customers and a sought-after workforce.

Sony Online's Sheri Graner Ray says that because videogaming is "a glamour industry," companies aren't accustomed to having to recruit workers at all, much less reaching out to a specific group of them. Ray, author of Gender-Inclusive Game Design: Expanding the Market, and a game designer who often speaks about women in the videogame industry, says that a decade ago, she met with a lot of resistance to the subject. Now she gets numerous requests for ideas on recruiting female applicants. "It's come a long way ... and it seems to be getting better faster."

Currently women make up only about 16% of the videogaming industry workforce, and a mere 5% of those involved in game design, 2% of those in programming, and 8% of those in production, according to UK studies by Lizzie Hanes Research for Media Training North West.

Ray believes that having more women involved in game development and marketing, and especially in upper management, will have a "dramatic" effect on how well videogames match women's play preferences and learning styles. One of the key insights to come out of the conference, says Ray, was the understanding that "if you want to appeal to a broad market, your workforce has to reflect that market."

When developer Her Interactive approached major game publishers about distributing its female-targeted Nancy Drew mystery game in 1998, none would stock it, says CEO Megan Gaiser. "We were told, 'Females are computer-phobic, and there's no market for females in interactive entertainment,'" she says. This was despite the fact that the success of Barbie PC games had shown that girls slightly younger than Her Interactive's target were a highly profitable market.

The company decided to market the games itself, selling online at Amazon and getting the word out through consumer PR. When the games started winning awards, the same publishers that had initially refused to stock them came back asking for retail distribution deals. "I've seen a lot of progress," says Gaiser. "I've seen publishers completely change their perspectives over the years, because money talks. Everyone has realized that this is a very lucrative marketing opportunity."

Her Interactive's research showed that "it wasn't that girls weren't interested in computer games; it's that they were critical of the computer culture at that time," says Gaiser. Carolyn Rauch of the Entertainment Software Association asserts, "Women have traditionally been a larger segment of the game-playing population than most people believe," though she acknowledges that gaming's transition to a mass-market form of entertainment has helped it draw more female players in recent years. "There's been a broadening of content generally [that helps games] appeal to a wider variety of people."

Rauch also points out that technological advancements have helped companies create games with greater appeal for women. "[Videogames] have moved from Pong--which had no emotional content--to [games like] The Sims and historical games, which have lots of emotional content. As story-lines get deeper, there are more ways to draw in [a wider variety of] people, including women." Games that can be played quickly--such as card games--and those that offer a social component--such as online multiplayer games--are also popular with women, she says.

What Female Gamers Want

"It's impossible to categorize what women like in videogames," says Rauch. …

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